For me there are three categories of shopping. There is the high street retailer, the designer and the boutiques. The high street retailers are the ones we are all familiar with. They’re the Topshops and River Islands of the world which are present in most cities and shopping centres. My favourite in this category would have to be Zara and the rumours that float around about whether one will open in Cork city is one I very much hope to be true, although my bank balance may feel otherwise. Next we have the designer labels, Ralph Lauren, Dolce & Gabbana and Chanel to name just a few. However, the closest I ever get to these beauties is TK Maxx. Finally we have the boutiques. The one off gems that are often hidden in corners of cities and shopping centres. They offer something that little bit different that you won’t see every second person walking around in and they are a force to be reckoned with.
Over the last few years there has been a significant increase in the number of boutiques popping up all over the country. It seems there is much more demand out there for more personal and unique looks offering fantastic opportunities for independent retailers to thrive. What the reason for this increased demand is, I’m not completely sure, but either way I think it’s a positive step for all style lovers. More boutiques means more choice and individuality in fashion. Hopefully, it will also lead to less people becoming carbon copies of each other. This is something which I have definitely noticed amongst teenagers. More often than not they are all dressed exactly the same. The only difference may be the colour of their identical jackets. Granted this is partly because at that age you want to fit in, but the world doesn’t need millions of Kylie Jenner lookalikes. It needs individuals and I believe boutiques and exclusive clothing shops encourage this.
In the past it seems boutiques were often visited solely for outfits for landmark days out. The communions or confirmations, the weddings and the christenings, but now they are used for all those events plus so much more. People want to experiment and dare to be that little bit different in their everyday ensembles which is a welcome trait. I sometimes think, particularly in Ireland, that if you go out in something a little bit out of the ordinary you still tend to get a few looks. Their facial expressions tell a thousand words of approval or otherwise. This is vastly different to other countries I have visited where I think people have a much more daring approach to their fashion. However, with the rise in popularity for bespoke style we are surely on the right track.
The world of boutique shopping was recently celebrated by the Xposé Frock Advisor awards which hand picked a select number of finalists. Categories included Best Occasion wear, Best Vintage, Best Contemporary and Best Online to name just a few and I was delighted to see that Cork’s very own Verso was a finalist in the Best Occasion category. Competitions such as this provide an even wider customer base for boutiques and gives them a much needed platform to spread the word about their fantastic fashions. Competing with high street shops can’t be easy and perhaps we should all give a bit more support to the independent retailers who have made a name for themselves in the styles stakes.
Of course we cannot ignore the world of online shopping. In a society which is now consumed with buying everything on their phone it would be naive to think that an online presence isn’t a necessity. There are many retailers out there now who survive solely on their online brand to be a success. Personally, I always like having a physical space to go to when I shop but the option of being able to buy online, or order, is also an appeal, especially if there is a garment which particularly caught your eye. Arguably, having a strong social media presence is one of the most important aspects to build for a boutique. This is because people will now, more often than not, search for you on Facebook before anywhere else. You can then use this platform to drive traffic to your website where people can go ahead and purchase. Almost every boutique I’m fond of has a strong social media presence with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest just some of the social platforms being used. The digital retail world is only growing and social media can be a fantastic outlet for boutiques to stand out and showcase their individual merchandise.
The world of fashion and shopping is evolving and so too is the boutique. I for one welcome the rise of more individual looks and applaud everyone who expresses themselves through their own style. Not only do boutiques offer more individual clothing for their customers, they also capture the attention of the passer by with their often charming interiors. Boutique shopping is a very different type of shopping experience which is fast becoming the preference for many.
Long live the boutique and long may it continue to thrive!